After work the other day, I decided to embark on a spontaneous European vintage shopping excursion. I love thrift shopping in new cities- something about the process of wandering down an unknown street, discovering a store filled with the familiar smell of secondhand clothing, and immersing myself in its racks for hours always makes me feel like a local. It doesn’t feel super touristy, but it forces you to explore your surroundings. So in every city that I make a home out of, I try to locate its own vintage-y hipster-y district (lol). In San Francisco, where I visit my older brother, I have Haight-Ashbury, and in Houston, where I moved to for college, I have Montrose; of course, in my beloved Long Beach, California, I have Fourth Street.
Anyways, one left turn down the street I live on, la Calle de Fuencarral, led me to such a district. The street was filled with little stores advertising goods “hecho a mano” and “ropa vintage.” I had so much fun! I picked up some exquisite greeny-gold, flowy, high-waisted pants originally from West Germany.. European vintage clothing is really something else- the selection is better, and the prices are cheaper. I’ll definitely be back, and I already fear for my luggage weight limit.
It was my first time vintage shopping outside of the United States, and it was honestly pretty funny to see articles of clothing considered “cool” and “unique” by Spaniards. One of the stores I stopped by had an entire rack of cheerleading uniforms, and another rack of sweatshirts boasting names of American universities- I never expected a crewneck for Texas State San Marcos to be so coveted in Madrid. I guess fascination between worlds runs both ways.
This experience reminded me how fun and fulfilling the simple act of walking down a street- as my host mom says, taking “una vuelta”- really is. Madrid is so much more walkable than anywhere I’ve ever been. It’s almost unfathomable. The city was built for people, not cars (take notes, Houston.) The streets are still busy, but with people walking, talking, eating, and shopping, rather than with traffic. I was able to get from my house to my newfound little vintage-y district within a twenty-minute walk. Not to mention the absolute loveliness of that walk! Rather than stumbling over uneven concrete sidewalks that abruptly halt, or through roads that somehow border residential areas AND factories AND shopping plazas (hey Houston!!!!) I had the pleasure of traveling down cobblestone streets neatly lined with terraced apartments and charming storefronts. The city environment of Madrid is truly so special. Don’t even get me started on how beautiful the architecture is (will likely get its own blog post haha.) My Spanish professor grew up here, and she described Madrid as “the only place she feels truly alive.” I have to agree with her there.